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When Mike Antico came to the plate in the eighth, it was a chance not only to rectify some of his and the team’s early season struggles, but also a perceived wrong committed earlier in the game.
In the bottom of the third, Antico smashed a ball over the Texas bullpen in right field and onto Comal St. Problem is, the four-man umpiring crew ruled it foul and let the call stand following a replay review. That ticked off UT head coach David Pierce just enough to say the magic words to get ejected in the first game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in 350 days.
The eighth inning leading up to the pivotal play was eventful. Texas squandered a chance to score the winning run when Cam Williams was thrown out trying to advance from third on a passed ball. Antico’s at bat with two outs and two runners in scoring position was the Longhorns’ best opportunity to take control of the game from the BYU Cougars.
The St. John’s transfer delivered. Antico pulled a ball between the first and second baseman, allowing two runners to score. A quiet Cougar ninth ended in a flyout capping Texas’ 3-1 win.
“I will say the ball does not lie,” Antico said. “As you can see, I’ve learned that my whole career. No matter what happens, the ball does not lie. That was a perfect example right there.”
Antico believed he had hit his first home run in a Longhorn uniform in the third inning. So too did BYU catcher, Abraham Valdez. Antico said following the game Valdez told him during the review it was “definitely fair.”
If called fair, it would have been Texas’ second home run of the inning. Williams hit his second home run of the year off the batter’s eye in deep center field, taking advantage of a new ground rule implemented this season which no longer requires hitters to clear a gargantuan wall in straightaway center for a home run.
But Antico’s shot was ruled out of play and he grounded out a few pitches later. Despite an offseason in which the transfer drew buzz as a potential difference-maker, Antico’s plate problems continued Wednesday with a 0-for-3 start after a 1-for-12 weekend.
The eighth inning was not set up for Antico to be the hero. Williams doubled to lead off the frame and advanced to third on a passed ball. When another passed ball scooted by Valdez, it bounced off the backstop and returned to his awaiting glove. Williams got a late start from third base and the throw from Valdez to reliever Boston Mabeus beat Williams with ease.
Mabeus threw a wild pitch with two outs and two on to put runners in scoring position for Antico. With an 1-1 count, Antico knew what he needed to do.
“At that point I was trying to roll right through that thing,” Antico said. “That’s exactly what I did. I didn’t have to hit it too hard. I knew exactly what I had to do and I executed it.”
In the following inning, reliever Tanner Witt tossed a 123 ninth to save Texas’ first win of the 2021 campaign. Cole Quintanilla earned the win in 2.0 innings of relief of Pete Hansen and Drew Shifflet.
Antico’s single was one of four Texas hits on the evening. Williams recorded two of them. First baseman Ivan Melendez singled in the fourth. That was all for a Longhorn squad still looking for its way at the plate.
“Offensively I thought we made some improvements,” Pierce said. “We’re still a long ways away. We still have got to continue our plate discipline, and we’ve got to get into a flow of our offense which is hard to do when you’re not getting enough leadoff hitters on base.”
The process is ongoing for a team batting .163. Williams, who has been seventh in the lineup in all four games, is batting .308. Only one other Longhorn, Murphy Stehly, is above .300 with a .375 mark.
Every other UT hitter is hitting below .220.
It is reasonable to struggle against top staffs from teams ranked Nos. 6-8 in the nation, yet still disappointing considering Texas’ previous lofty ranking. Those struggles continued against a BYU team who received a stellar performance from starter Easton Walker.
The win could serve as the beginning of an emergence from a team-wide slump. The timely hits, however few, are a start in the right direction. For Texas, the next step is to keep the positive momentum from the season’s first win rolling into the rest of the series.
“Now that we got that first one, it’s time to roll,” said Antico.
B3 – Cam Williams solo home run (1-0)
T8 – Austin Demming solo home run (1-1)
B8 – Mike Single, Douglas Hodo and Murphy Stehly score (3-1)
1 p.m. Thursday, LHN
Texas RHP Justin Eckhardt (0-0) vs. BYU TBA
ODDS AND ENDS
Austin Todd has a strained oblique and is likely unavailable for the remainder of the weekend, per David Pierce. DJ Petrinsky and Zach Zubia were announced as unavailable without additional explanation